23. Boy meets Girl.

A handful of months pass and Charles, the cousin who had first introduced improvisation to me, who was to be wedded fairly soon, had an invitation delivered to our household.

In particular it was addressed to my father, Mr Lucas. It was an invitation to partake in a dinner. I suppose Charles had wanted to thank him for the care and guidance that my father had provided him with during our childhood where the cousins spent much time together playing in our house.

Father asked me to join him for this dinner and I agreed.

It was held at a beautiful seaside venue, the food prepared for the evening was part of the menu during my cousin’s wedding banquet. He had wanted opinions on it to see if it was suitable and to our liking.

Father and I arrived at the venue early and were ushered into a circular room, its walls lined with countless bottles of wine. We exchanged pleasantries with my cousin’s parents, my cousin’s fiancee and her parents and three of her friends who were to assist her on the big day. Charles was to arrive in a few moments with his own party of ‘brothers’ who would be there on the big day too.

The door to the circular room slides open and Charles comes in with 3 gentlemen. 1 of them being Charles’ brother, who was the same age as I, another was a dear friend of my cousin who I knew from my childhood too and the last one… I didn’t recognize. But he ‘soon drew the attention of the room by his fine, tall person and handsome features’. The ladies exchange looks with each other and they speak to each other about him. I silently thank Father that Mother wasn’t here.

They take their seats and the dinner commences. We taste a few dishes and speak to each other about them and also converse about other matters. The gentleman I am unfamiliar with is directly opposite me and his eyes and overall manner seem so intense. I ask Father if he knows him but he shook his head.

At one or two points as the dishes were brought and carried away, I felt his gaze upon me and when our eyes did meet, his gaze would linger before shifting his attention to either person seated by his side, leaning in to speak to them in hushed tones. I raise an eyebrow, but focus my attention on the food and the conversation.

After the 5th or 6th dish, the door slides open and in comes the chef. He asks about the meal so far and various people offer compliments and also ask questions about the excellent food we’d been having.

I excuse myself to go to the bathroom.

***

Before returning to the circular room, I take a little bit of time to enjoy the view. The waves could be heard and the moon was shining ever so brightly. Boats and yachts parked at the berth were bobbing up and down in an almost rhythmic fashion.

Turning around to walk back into the restaurant, the tall gentleman I don’t recognize is standing just a few metres away, outside the door of the circular room. As I am about to pass him, I look at him and I smile, considering whether or not to say hello and introduce myself.

Again, and as I should have expected, he stares for what seems like an uncomfortably long time. I decide against my earlier consideration and make the decision not to waste my time and hurry back for dessert.

Just as I brush past him to go back in, he says, ‘You are Charlotte, Charles’ cousin?’

I turn to look at him. “Yes, that’s me.”

I felt a tinge of annoyance that he knew my name before I knew his. I extend my hand toward him.

“I don’t believe we’ve met. Charles hasn’t introduced you either. You are…?”

Darcy.’

 

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